While Wests Tigers might not have got the result they were after against the Sea Eagles last week, young gun Tommy Talau said the experience was still unreal as he made his NRL debut.
Talau became the 225th player to represent Wests Tigers and the third player to make their first-grade debut this year under Coach Michael Maguire — running out at centre alongside some of the most experienced players in the game.
For the 19-year-old, that moment will stay with him forever.
"It was unreal," he reflected.
"To be playing with the boys that I used to grow up watching on TV is incredible.
"They were just reminding me to keep calm and back myself — I was really nervous.
"It was this mix of being happy and nervous at the same time."
Having only been promoted to the NRL squad days before the June 30 deadline, it's certainly been a whirlwind year for Talau in his first season at Wests Tigers.
The son of former New Zealand international centre Willie Talau — who had an illustrious rugby league career throughout his time with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (1998-2003), St. Helens (2003-08) and Salford (2009-10) — Talau said making his debut was a special recognition for his family and sacrifice.
"I was happy to be out there because I was playing for them," he said.
"I was thinking of my family and all the hard work I've done to reach this point.
“My Mum was in tears, they were all really proud of me.
“My Dad said he was proud of me no matter what.”
Despite a tough result for Talau and Wests Tigers, the talented teenager said he'll be better for the experience and what he learned from his debut night.
"I thought my preparation was pretty good throughout the week," he said.
"I really learned a lot in the game.
“I’ll continue to keep turning up to training and working hard on the little things — improving my defence and putting in the little extras in my game."
Wests Tigers will look to bounce back from their defeat against the Se Eagles when they take on the Newcastle Knights this Saturday at Campbelltown.
Match: Wests Tigers v Knights
Round 23 -
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney